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Bold, Nick - 2002 Interview with the ex Virginia Wolf guitarist

INTERVIEW: Bold, Nick (Sep 2002)
The ex Virginia Wolf guitarist pops in for a cuppa!

In The Spotlight - Nick Bold
Interview with Nick Bold
Written by: Gdazegod (September 19 2002)

Sept 2002: The mid-eighties were a breeding ground for young pretenders to the throne. Those pretenders being the melodic rock upstarts coming out of Britain at the time. Always perceived in the British media as being second cousins to their counterparts from across the Atlantic, nevertheless, there were some great bands coming through. Buoyed by the success of Def Leppard circa 'Pyromania', and Bon Jovi 'Slippery When Wet' era, some of the UK's finest wanted to model their success on what was fashionable in the US. A couple of names to throw in the hat: Tobruk, Shy, FM, Magnum, and Manchester's Virginia Wolf.

The latter band struck a melodic chord with me during 1986 with their impressive debut album. Featuring Chris Ousey, Jason Bonham, Jo Burt, and perhaps more importantly, guitarist and band founder Nick Bold. While Ousey and Bonham have moved onto greener pastures, what became of the original Wolf Nick Bold? Well, just recently we had the opportunity to touch base with Nick. The reality of it is.. he hasn't really been away at all, but just been out of the spotlight. 'Yeah, I guess you could say I've been lying low for a decade or so' laughs Nick. 'I've never stopped writing though, that's something that won't stop even if I want it to, songs just keep turning up out of the blue and I suppose that's ultimately what keeps me involved in music.'

Some of these 'post grunge' puppies who'll read this article will have no idea who Nick Bold is. How about a brief introduction? 'OK, well I was best known as the guitarist and founding member of Virginia Wolf an 80's AOR band signed to Atlantic Records. I also wrote most of the stuff, though Chris Ousey, the singer, wrote a few killer tracks with me.'

Nick's sudden re-emergence was not by accident, and he explains how it came about. 'I suppose it has to be largely due to the Internet' he says. 'I'm what you would call a latecomer as regards the 'Net. I only got my first computer 6 months ago believe it or not, and a guy who's now become a very good friend called Ray Achord contacted me to let me know there was still a lot of interest in what the members of VW were doing. Ray introduced me to sites like your own Heart of the Rock and it's been an education, believe me. I had no idea anyone still cared!'

The name Viriginia Wolf brings back some memories for some, and it goes way back into time, long before 1986 when they first took off. 'Yes it goes way back now' concurs Nick. 'I've actually got a photo of me when I was 17 standing in front of a bass drum embellished with the name Virginia Wolf and that's from 1977. It was myself and a couple of mates just out of school.'

Bringing in the likes of Chris Ousey, Jason Bonham and Jo Burt really set the band on fire circa 1985/86. With their style of music, one could conclude that America was the big target for success. 'Well Chris and I go way back, long before the other two guys came into the picture. Chris and I worked together from 1978, and yes, you could say that America was always the prime target. We loved bands like Foreigner and Bad Co. and were very much aware they did well over the water. I think Atlantic saw us as a young Foreigner to be honest, and Chris had that classic vocal thing going that gave you that sort of sound.'

Some of the material off both of those albums are oh so memorable. 'Living On A Knife Edge', Waiting For Your Love', For All We Know'.. Personally, I think they stack up pretty well after all these years. 'I'm extremely proud of the songs that Chris and I wrote' says Nick. 'I think 'Push' (second album 1987) has aged particularly well. At the time of recording I think because we'd done it in San Fransisco we felt it was maybe a bit too laid back but it now seems to sound just right. Maybe I've mellowed and I'm now perfectly in sync with it' he says. Most of the material was penned by Nick and Chris, while the final output was put together by Queen drummer Roger Taylor on the debut, and Kevin Elson (Journey) for the sophomore LP 'Push'. I ask Nick what he thought of their respective efforts. 'Very happy with both of them really' he says. 'I think with the first one it was all new to us and we kinda did what we were told which is probably par for the course if you're a young band. But with the second we, particularly myself, had a much bigger involvement in how the songs went down on tape. I remember with each song on 'Push', Kevin Elson asking how I heard it in my head. He was very accommodating like that.'

Virginia Wolf ended up in the US supporting Paul Rodgers, Jimmy Page and The Firm during 1986. This was an opportunity for which the band had to pinch themselves to realize it was actually happening. 'Well put it this way, if you're a guitar player obsessed with Led Zep and someone asks 'Hey sonny, do you want to tour America with Jimmy Page and play to 20,000 people every night' how would you feel? I still have to pinch myself when I think of it' says Nick. 'I remember realizing the sheer size of America too and thinking 'wow we'll have to tour here forever to crack it'. I remember just basking in the moment and thinking 'well this is everything you've worked for so enjoy it!' I remember thinking 'holy shit I'm actually getting blase about turning up at another 20,000 seater' ... I LOVED IT!'

The duration of VW was a relatively short one in hindsight. As with any band/label pairing, the relationship with Atlantic Records soured, and left a bitter pill behind for Nick. 'It may appear like it was a short duration but that was only the two year recording period. Like I said, Chris and I worked together for six or seven years prior to getting signed. It was certainly no overnight success. But yes losing the deal with Atlantic was a blow' remembers Nick. 'I felt wiped out. I'd given everything and after all those years we got a million dollar deal and it all looked rosy for a while then it was taken away.'

'The music business should almost provide counselors for musicians in those instances. It's pretty depressing. I guess I'm still bitter at Atlantic, they dropped us because they didn't like an album that's now considered a classic. Smart, real smart. Get this. One of the directors from those days (now retired), even had the audacity to put the acetate of 'Push' up for sale on E-Bay recently! How low is that? So now the sucker's realized we weren't that bad, after sacking us.'

Virginia Wolf - Push (1987)

All your bandmates moved on to other gigs. What happened to Nick Bold at the end of the eighties? 'I think I needed to distance myself from everybody and everything connected with VW after it didn't work out. It was a real low point. So I just got stupid day jobs I hated. Like I said this business will screw with your head if you're not careful. One day you have famous rock stars telling you how great you are and producers and everyone saying you're gonna be a millionaire and everything, and the next you're spat out and you're a gardener! It's a roller-coaster.'

Despite all that, the music was still within Nick, and his musical expression showed up in different styles. 'Hell I've done everything' he says. 'My attitude to music for better or worse has always been to write whatever takes my fancy at any given time. In retrospect it's probably the reason we got dropped from Atlantic because they wanted another album like the first one and what they got was too much of a departure and too varied. We also suffered from weak management.'

'I got involved with my pal Steve Murray's power-pop band for a while. I had a Robert Cray type blues band as well. I took up keyboards and wrote a bunch of Burt Bacharach type tunes, I got involved with a genius black South African girl singer called Sani and wrote some dance orientated stuff and actually got a deal in Africa on BMG and it did well over there. I've been to Nashville and written and played over there. You know there's some real genius writers in that town, I'll have to get back sometime. On top of all that I really got into acoustic guitar and got to appreciate what a beautiful instrument it is after all these years of rocking out. I've done so much stuff I forgot about.'

Nick has also released a brace of solo albums which could be considered a departure away from those better remembered moments with Virginia Wolf. 'Well even though I wrote the lions share of the VW stuff it was Chris' fantastic voice that largely characterized our sound' confirms Nick. 'With a singer like that you have no option but to follow his lead and write for him. With my solo albums I'm doing the vocals so obviously that's the biggest difference. I'll tell you what, I always knew Chris was a great singer but I've discovered a whole new level of respect for him since I've been handling the vocal duties. That guy must have a throat made of lead! Yeah the stuff I'm doing isn't pretending to be VW Part 2, my vocal style isn't in that Paul Rogers style, it's more soft rock and that puts a whole different stamp on it. The good thing is I get to do any song I like and not have to ask anyone else if they think it sucks or not!'

Tell us about the new album 'For A Small Fee..'? 'Well as ever with Nick Bold it's a varied affair. There's a few up-tempo rockers, a couple of ballads which I think are amongst the best things I've written and I'm really happy with and how the arrangements worked out with the harmonies and everything. There's even a track with an accordion on there, a sort of Dylanish thing. I think variety is the spice of life. Screw Atlantic.'

'After VW I did have a few attempts at putting together other bands but nothing ever worked out. I wouldn't even say there's anything worth mentioning. I had plenty of false starts with other singers which always ultimately led to frustration and finally I resorted to doing it myself and I'm really enjoying it.'

I understand you've got another CD available which contains a whole lot of outtakes from the VW era. What can you tell us about that material? 'No that's actually incorrect' says Nick. 'I have all the old rehearsal tapes and demos of both albums but they're not available for purchase. Incidentally some of those demo versions are better than the final album takes. The other CD's I have are just other solo things I've worked on. Oh and there's one I did with a bluesy band which was really a promotional tool to get live work.'

Nick still lives in the greater Manchester area. I ask him about the local gig scene, and whether he's on his own, or in a band situation. 'Well I move in the writers circle and it's great. I've made plenty of friends and we do lots of these open-mike gigs. There's a lot of activity. I even host an open-mike night myself every other Thursday in Bury at a theatre.'

Nick continues. 'I don't have my own exclusive band right now but there's always guys around that'll put something together with you if you want to do something short term. Having a fulltime band is a huge emotional investment, as we all know. I must say it's a joy to be able to 'travel light' as it were and just turn up somewhere with an acoustic and do a gig. That's why it's essential that you write the song strong because it'll sound like shit when you're up there on your own if it ain't good.'

Obviously with Nick back in action, thoughts drift further afield to a possible reunion with Chris Ousey, considering both are prolific songwriters, and that some of their previous material was excellent. 'I haven't seen Chris in a long time. It would certainly be great to sit and catch up on things' ponders Nick. 'Like I said, I'm relatively new to the Internet so I didn't even know he'd done all those CD's with Heartland. As for working together again, who knows? Never say never. We were both very good for each other and I'm sure we could be again. If it's meant to be it'll happen.'

Nick Bold - For A Small Fee..

'For A Small Fee' has just been released this week. Nick will probably be spending an evening with lots of other writers in a club in Manchester, and partaking in a few jams. But beyond the release of the album, there are obviously a few ambitions and targets to be realised. 'First and foremost I'm a songwriter so I'd be happy just doing that all day' says Nick. 'I'm always pursuing writing avenues so I could do with a nice publishing deal at the moment, so that's very much a target.'

Is there any chance of doing something with the Virginia Wolf material after all these years? 'The catalogue is just about out of copyright after 15 years I believe' says Nick, 'so I'll be very interested to see what we can do with some of those old gems in terms of getting covers.' (as it turns out, these were released by Wounded Bird nearly a year later)

I guess a final question to a Mancunian such as Nick would not be complete unless I ask him what side of the football fence he sits on. Man City or Man Utd? 'Haha George, to be honest in Manchester the only two teams that matter are Manchester United and the Manchester United reserves!'

So there you have it. The man behind the Wolf has returned. A little older, a little wiser, and though not baring the sharp musical fangs of yesteryear, if he hangs about on the Internet a bit longer, that may very well change. Time to invest in a distortion pedal or two don't you think Nick?


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#1 | mickey on February 20 2018 12:29:20
Really enjoyed reading this, what an excellent article. i discovered Virginia Wolf last year and i was speechless, what a great band! They sounded different from any other band, and besides the greatness of Ousey´s vocals and Bold´s amazing guitar work i´m also always fascinated by the classy use of the keyboards on some songs. Hats off.
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